Bluffland Whitetails Association Showing Leadership on CWD in Minnesota

September 21, 2018 | by Nick Pinizzotto

I’ve made the comment several times recently about how much of my time is spent working on chronic wasting disease (CWD), and how when I and others who set out to work on deer issues for a career, this disease isn’t what we had in mind. I think I can speak for most of us by saying we’d much rather be working on the cool aspects of deer and wildlife conservation, like habitat management, land access, and hunting. Sometimes you have to play the hand you’re dealt, and it hasn’t dampened my enthusiasm for deer and helping to ensure a bright future for hunting.

It’s one thing for those of us who work on deer issues for a career to have to shift gears and sometimes work outside of our comfort zones, but it’s quite a different ask of people who volunteer their time for deer and hunting. I trust that probably describes most people who will read this. The true heritage of deer hunting lives at the grassroots or community level, and sportsmen’s clubs and local wildlife organizations often provide fuel for the fire. From teaching young people how to shoot and eventually hunt and hosting hunter education courses, to hosting wild game dinners as fundraisers for habitat projects, volunteer sportsmen’s groups have led the way for decades.

The Bluffland Whitetails Association of southeast Minnesota is all of those things, and then some. According to the group’s website, the organization was created by hunters, landowners and wildlife professionals committed to improving white-tailed deer management through education, research and cooperative action. They believe that deer management strategies based on an accurate assessment of today’s herd and sound scientific research will lead to a healthier, better balanced herd, without reducing hunter opportunities. That’s a rather impressive mission statement, but most importantly, they’re working diligently to live up to it, particularly when it comes to CWD.

Earlier this week, the group announced that it sponsored a deer carcass quartering station for the early archery season thru the firearms season with the goal being to assist hunters that hunt inside CWD management zone DPA 603 with a place to break down their registered harvest, and prevent the unnecessary spread of CWD. The announcement from the group’s secretary, Jeremy Schmidt, also stated that the enclosed station will be supplied with items to help hunters quarter out their harvest and clean up after themselves. Items such as a hoist to remove your deer hide, lighted enclosure to get out of the elements, tables for working on and packing out your venison and various cleaning supplies for when the hunter is complete with their harvest will be on site to use. The note went on to say that the organization recommends each hunter that uses the station reads the posted quartering station guidelines on the enclosures sidewall before they begin breaking down their harvest. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is also supplying a dumpster at this site for the disposal of carcasses harvested in the management zone, and a head collection box for mandatory CWD sampling.

While some still want to pretend CWD doesn’t exist, or that the seriousness of the issue is overblown, Bluffland Whitetails Association is playing the hand it has been dealt, and doing its part to ensure a bright future for deer and hunting. What an impeccable display of leadership, but that’s no surprise to anyone who knows about the group, or is affiliated with it. Earlier this year I had the pleasure of meeting with group members and officers to talk about how NDA can help with their efforts, and they voted immediately to make a financial contribution. Clearly this is a group that prides itself on less talk, and more action.

The great people of the Bluffland Whitetails Association are leading by example, and if you’re a member of a sportsmen’s club or deer association, you might consider what your organization can do to help slow the spread of CWD. While you may not have the resources to sponsor quartering stations, it costs almost nothing to educate fellow hunters about the realities of CWD, and proper care and disposal of carcasses. If your group is already doing something, please let us know and we’ll tell the NDA community about it. We want to celebrate your great efforts. I’ve described CWD as a monster with many heads, and for us to have any chance of slaying the monster, it’s going to take a herculean effort from deer enthusiasts at the grassroots level, to our elected officials on Capitol Hill. We all have an important role to play, and no effort is too small.